Kudos for ‘Camilla’
It ain’t easy being a folk musician today.
While Americana and bluegrass artists have huge followings and festivals, those musicians pursuing their folksy roots have a harder time finding an audience (or a radio station willing to promote their music).
That’s the dilemma with the new album, “Camilla,” by singer-songwriter Caroline Herring. It is beautiful, flowing and lyrically takes on a wealth of themes. Now, if she can just get folks to hear it.
Caroline Herring is well known in Nashville and folk music circles for her strong songwriting and well-crafted albums, including the stellar “Golden Apples of the Sun” of 2009. “Camilla” continues that tradition and adds a new sonic palette to Herring’s work. Here, pedal steel and upright bass complement the acoustic guitar, giving listeners Herring’s most “country” album thus far.
Lyrically, Herring continues to push boundaries, particularly for a Nashville-based songwriter. In a city that has a hard time looking past boots, beer and bad boys, Herring has a distinctly broader view.
The title track of “Camilla” recalls a violent scene that took place during the Civil Rights movement in Camilla, Ga. “Black Mountain Lullaby” is both a timeless folk song and a damning condemnation of corporate greed and environmental disaster.
In “Traveling Shoes,” Herring utilizes the Eudora Welty short story, “A Worn Path,” as inspiration for a fabulous a cappella tune, sung with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Aoife O’Donovan.
As a folk musician, Herring does an excellent job of avoiding common traps, such as writing all of her songs in one key or one tempo. The stompy, up-tempo and banjo-driven “Fireflies” is complemented by the dreamy Celtic lilting of “Maiden Voyage.”
Much of the new album appears to be influenced by being the only American representative in the prestigious Cecil Sharp Project in England, a group of musicians commissioned to compose music based on the life and collections of the famous “song catcher.” The project took place last January, just before Herring headed into the studio to record “Camilla.”
Herring did a little song-catching of her own, recording an obscure 1840 hymn, “Flee as a Bird,” for the album. Remarkably, it fits in perfectly with the nine Herring-written compositions.
“I feel braver on this album,” Herring said. “And I feel it represents me wholly.”
“Camilla” features Herring on acoustic guitar and vocals, along with her “Nashville Band” of Steven Sheehan on guitar, Fats Kaplin on pedal steel, fiddle and banjo, Bryan Owings on drums and chains and Bryn Davies on upright bass.
Guest musicians include Mary Chapin Carpenter on vocals, Aoife O’Donovan on vocals, Clarie Holley on vocals, Jackie Oates on vocals, fiddle and harmonium, Sean Lakeman on electric guitar, Erick Jaskowiak on electric guitar, Kathryn Roberts on vocals, Leonard Podolack on banjo and Andrea Zonn on violins and viola.
The album closes with the lush and beautiful “Joy Never Ends (Auld Lang Syne).” Strings and pedal steel weave a remarkable audio tapestry, while Herring sings a song of farewell.
Hope we hear from you again soon, Caroline.
“Camilla” will be released next month on Signature Sounds Records. For more information, visit http://www.carolineherring.com.